Crumbs in my keyboard…

The Daily Life Text

…bees in my bonnet.

I had a dream last night that Jim and I were in a triathlon. It was some kind of weird triathlon/adventure-racing hybrid, though, because there was underwater bush-whacking involved. My friend Pamela was there, for some reason, likely because she has been a huge champion of us during the Ironman thing and many of my previous cock-eyed projects (she is an Iron-peep herself), and do you know what?

I found out during this weird, epic race that I had not actually ever completed an Ironman. Of course, as dream thingys go, this one was in real-time, so I had already done all the things that are required when you finish a race: told your nearest and dearest, celebrated with your friends, blogged about it, told the local paper, notified the charity you’re raising money for that you’ve done it, so they can shout it from the rooftops…It was a horrible, sinking feeling. And then I thought of Pamela, waiting for us with her camera at the next TA, and my black heart sank way, way down to my bike shoes.

I did not know what to do, especially as Jim and I were getting ridiculed and laughed at by the race directors at this point in our Iron-AR, and we were neck-deep in swamp-weed, and it was nighttime.

I guess I did the only thing I could do: I woke up, feeling out-of-sorts and not remembering why until just now.

I think all of this has to do with my work-in-progress. No, no, my work(s)-in-progress. I have three, you see. THREE! One of them, a young-adult novel, I’ve been working on since 1999. That’s a decade ago. A lot has changed about this work, and it’s actually been to editors in its first incarnation (early 2004) and agents in its second (early 2006). So it’s not exactly staid. I personally think this last incarnation is the best. But I’m calling it a WIP because it’s missing an ending.

The reason it’s missing an ending is because I had it turned into my critique group, and so had stopped work on it, choosing to wait and see what they thought of the most recent turn of changes (I went from third person to first person) before I wrote the ending to it. We’re almost there. While WIP I (call it “YA Draft”) was out with the critique group. I started WIP II, which I’ll call, for lack of a better phrase, the Women’s Literature book. I quite like this novel. It’s complete in its story arc and just needs to be fine-tuned, and then I’ll send it out to a select list of agents. I’m not really looking forward to that. But it has to be done.

WIP III was a National Novel Writing Month project. It’s a middle-grade fantasy book that rotates around some talking animals and a man-eating cabbage. It’s the reason my dog, Sprocket, has his own Facebook page. (Someone said it was a good idea to exercise thinking the way I thought my animal characters might think.) I don’t know where that’s going, although it, too, is complete in that there is a beginning, middle, and end.

Anyway. So I think my terrible triathlon dream had to do with these three books, which are all sort of looming over my head. I’m almost done with the women’s book, which I like a lot, although I hesitate to classify it in that genre. I mean, it’s about a young woman, sure. But it’s not Maxine Hong Kingston, and it’s not Barbara Kingsolver, or Jodi Picoult. It’s my own work. It’s a little bit Jennifer-Weiner, I suppose, but only in that there’s some contemporary conflict.

So, according to my dream, the rub boils down to this: I’ve been telling people I’m a writer and that I’ve been working on some fiction. And I am, and I have been. Just Google me, you’ll see. But clearly, some part of me feels quite incomplete. Best get done with these things, then, before they end up doing me in with more dreams of incomplete aspirations. (“What? You mean I never actually graduated from college? Crap.”)

I think, too, that my brain has been on overdrive. I’ve been reading a lot of good work (see the “Stuff Other People Wrote” section for some choice reviews) and really enjoying the added inspiration. I suppose this restlessness might be partially post-race blues, but I think, also, I’ve long seen several things as being on my agenda. Ironman and becoming a part of the disaster-relief community have each been long-term goals over my life; now that I’ve accomplished those two goals; perhaps I am just telling myself that it’s time to move on with the rest of the stuff too. Dispense with the to-do list, in short order, as it were. And then? After that? Perhaps non-fiction. A guide to lifelong to-do lists.

At any rate, my horrible dream has left me feeling high-spirited. There is a lot of work to be done, and I am looking forward to it.

Here are some more photos from Schweiz.

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I think the way one building is built into another is hilarious.

I also love this teeny tiny church, perched on a ridge.
I also love this teeny tiny church, perched on a ridge.
I am nuts about this graffiti, too
I am nuts about this graffiti, too, found in an underpass in Lucerne
and just as nuts about this photo of me and Lara.
and just as nuts about this photo of me and Lara.
i like this one the best, though.
i like this one the best, though.

The things they ate

The Daily Life Text

During an Ironman, you consume all sorts of high-tech food. Engineered stuff, crafted to hit the sweet spot between high-quality fuel and optimized ease of digestion. If that jargon isn’t enough to make your head spin, well…you should take a look at the labels on some of the stuff I ate.
Here’s the list:
(5) Gus
(2) Trader Joe’s Sweet,  Savory & Tart bars
(2) Cokes
(1) banana, cut into chunks and consumed over different aid stations on the run.
(5) bottles of Gatorade or Powerade
I added up the calorie count…it comes to something like 1900 calories. I don’t know how many calories I burned, but it’s way more than the above list gave me. Either way, I didn’t feel nauseated and I didn’t once feel hungry, so I think I did right by myself for the glacial pace at which I was moving.

No, the real problems came the next day, post-race. We sat down to a celebratory meal with Lara, of brat-and-potatoes, chicken cordon vert for Lara, and Wienerschnitzel, I think, for Jim. Prosecco for Lara and a summery white wine spritzer for me, and we gabbed happily about the race and debriefed each other.

But as I began to wolf down my food, I realized that there was what felt like a massive lump in the back of my mouth, just where my palate met the soft part of my mouth, and it was increasingly painful. I vaguely remembered there being one other such occurrence before, and I remember Jim saying to me then that he had it too, but I couldn’t remember when or why.  I was looking at my plate, wondering if I should mention the fact that I could hardly swallow to my friends and ruin the festive mood, or if I should just glug down the rest of my white wine spritzer and hope that numbed the problem. Too late, though: my friends noticed my slowing down (also, perhaps, the glassy-eyed staring at plate didn’t help, either) and asked with some alarm what happened.

It turns out, this happens after every race during which you’ve eaten pretty much nothing but soft foods. Your body’s in shock, you see, right down to the fact that all of the dehydration, near-starvation, and sugary content over the course of one long day forces the physical reaction of an angry, swollen palate.

All of this is to say that I think my body’s only recently gone back to normal. I couldn’t eat the hashed potatoes that came with my brat that day (too many rough edges); I could hardly eat the fondue we had that night for dinner because the fatty cheese covered nice crusty bread; I was thrilled to find that gelato didn’t offend anything in my system, and that beer cooled my throat. So sad. The next day was better. We went to visit a lovely mountain via funicular train up the side of Mount Pilatus:

funicularjhyslmh
Me, Jim, and Marilyn on board the funicular train

and had lunch at the top, which looked like this:

crisp greens
crisp greens

and this!

carnivoresplatter

Point being, there was no way I was going to let that gorgeous food go to waste, even if it was all sharp corners and crunchy things.

I still wasn’t really eating right by the time we got home, although I suspect part of that might have just been general aimlessness and a lack of focus and normal schedule. I think I’m back on track though: I’ve been eating good dinners and semi-good lunches. Had a nice burger at a BBQ with friends on Saturday evening; Friday I had shrimp burritos, but I totally neglected to eat the rice on the side, choosing instead to drink a very large margarita. Come to think of it, I think maybe the fact that the margarita was half-done by the time food arrived may have forced me to not see the rice at all. This is because of another side effect of Ironman training: I am now officially an uber-cheap date.

Anyway, I think I’m finally back to normal. I’m starving all the time and thirsty all the time, so I think my body is telling me that now I need to go back to exercising all the time. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Right. Tomorrow, it’s back to our regularly scheduled reading-and-writing based programming. I have a stack of book reviews floating around in my head that I need to process.

Odds and Ends

The Daily Life Text

We leave for the airport to begin our trip to Zurich in about two hours. There are a few things on my mind.

1. I’ve been slowly falling apart over the past week. First, I banged my shin on our square bed-post. This happens every once in awhile, with varying degrees of severity, but this was ridiculous, because it led to me banging my head on that lovely Arco lamp that we purchased recently, and then to the discovery of s bizarre niggling pain in my rib, and then when I went for my run on Sunday I discovered a grossly unhappy hamstring. And then, yesterday, in our open-water swim, coach had us come in on a particularly rocky shore–no, he didn’t see the rocks until it was way too late–and both Jim and I have multiple cuts on our feet. Owtch. They should heal in time, but…

2. My house is falling apart. I woke up this morning and stood over the sink, rinsing my coffee pot, and noticed a leak right next to me. Creepy thing is, it’s coming from the upstairs apartment, where no one lives. Eee. The maintenance guys came right away to turn off the water upstairs. Now, no more leak. But they’ll have to fix while we’re away.

3. I am really pretty upset at Twitter right now. I asked someone, quite nicely, to refrain from tweeting Tour de France results, since not all of us get a chance to see it until the end of the day. She refused, and, in turn, sent out a tweet out that asked why people get upset when results of things are revealed. This, in turn, resulted in a bunch of people calling people like me “whiners” and “losers.” I suppose this is going to be one of those web debates. I’m refusing to get involved. I just sent her a note thanking her for clarifying her position, and noted that I’d unfollow her for now and then re-follow her later. After the way she’s handled the situation, though, I don’t think I’ll be doing that. Too bad–she’s a bicycle tour organizer and I was thinking pretty seriously about joining her tours one day.

4. I was really excited for Switzerland last night, and today I’m just nervous. I hope I’ll be able to sleep on the plane! I love traveling, though. I’m sure it’ll be fun.

5. Sprocket is in Connecticut having a blast, or so his facebook page tells me, snort snort. Here’s a photo. p7060074These are Sprocket’s new friends, Murphy and Bella. They are sweet and drooly.

6. Lunchboxes are back. Aren’t these interesting? I spotted these in Connecticut on our way back from dropping off Das Hund. p7060079

A triathlon primer

The Daily Life Text

I’ve been involved in multi-sport since 2001, and started doing triathlons back in 2003 as part of a project to get more urban women involved in outdoor sport (“Yes! You *can* have a two-martini dinner and still go for a five-mile run when you get home!”)
At any rate, navigating some of the terminology in triathlon is one of the things I remember doing first, so let’s start from the very beginning.

Base Definition
Technically, a triathlon is any sport that involves three sports, much the way that a biathlon can be anything from a cross-country-skiing-and-shooting-fest to a run-bike-run. But, strictly speaking, triathlon is typically defined as swim-bike-run, in that order.
sbr
(Cartoon images help me to remember which order events are in a tri.)

That Whole “Ironman” Thing
I can’t tell you how many people have asked me, when I’m doing an Ironman, “Wait, a full one?” Sometimes I get the same question when I tell people I’m doing a triathlon. Anything less than a full triathlon would be a bi-athlon, or a running or swimming or biking race. And anything less than an Ironman is a half-Ironman or an Olympic distance or a sprint race. (More on those later.) The term “triathlon” is not interchangeable with “Ironman.”
There is some controversy about the Ironman branding. I was very disappointed to realize that, since the people behind the Ironman brand also operate events at the half-Ironman distance, they are extending the Ironman name to that distance. They’re calling it “70.3” instead (the full distance behind an Ironman is 140.6 miles, exactly), so as not to dilute the brand of “Ironman,” I suppose, but I believe it’s backfired: Now, you can say you’ve done an “Ironman” if you did an Ironman-branded 70.3 event. They encourage it. I find it annoying. I don’t like the idea of making it sound as if I’ve done something I haven’t. For me, that will all change this year once I cross the finish line at Ironman Switzerland, and I suppose that, in the future, the collective memory will forget that Ironman once meant one specific thing, but…eurgh.
Anyway.
imlogo
(This logo is fraught with controversy. Okay, just in my head.)

The Distances
Remember a couple of days ago, when I was geeking out to the math involved in a triathlon? Get ready for some more geekspeak.
In order, from shortest to longest, the triathlons are: sprint; Olympic (or International); Half-Ironman (or “middle-distance”); Ironman. Here are the distance breakdowns:
Sprint
Swim: 400-800 yards (0.25-0.5 mile)
Bike: 13 miles
Run: 3.1 miles

Olympic (International)
Swim: .93 miles
Bike: 26 miles
Run: 6.2 miles

Half-Ironman (Middle)
Swim: 1.2 miles
Bike: 56 miles
Run: 13.1 miles

Ironman
Swim: 2.4 miles
Bike: 112 miles
Run: 26.2

How to Get Started
Start small. Find a friendly local race to train for. Enlist some friends to train with you and race with you. Enjoy the process, as you become competent in several disciplines as once and gain confidence and strength. Swim outdoors when you can. There are a ton of training programs online. I used Trinewbies.com for awhile and enjoyed it.
team-divas-05
(These are the girls who were in my virtual network for awhile. Loved doing a triathlon with them.)
Next, shop. Yes, do get triathlon-specific items. You could spend a ton of money, but you don’t have to: invest in a pair of triathlon shorts that will take you straight from swim to bike and through the run. A wetsuit, if your chosen triathlon requires it, or if you live in a colder-weather clime.

Next, set some goals. They can be anything: weight loss; time spent outdoors; a time goal. Just pick something and stick to it.

Finally, pick a nice, casual restaurant in which to celebrate your first triathlon. If you don’t finish the race feeling good enough to have a margarita (okay, I’ll admit this is my own personal benchmark), then…well, try again. Then repeat.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk some about the specific legs of a race.

The Weekend that Started Early and Would Not End

The Daily Life Text

Egads. It feels like I’ve been running on weekend time forever. It sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? Except, see, for us, in these peak weeks of Ironman training, well, the weekends are when we do our long workouts: five-hour bike rides on Saturday; three-hour runs on Sunday. After that, there’s not much to do but sleep and eat. There’s not much we’re capable of, really.
This weekend, we had a wedding to go to, so our long run was moved to Friday, leaving our Saturday free to travel. We also had a friend in town, apartment-hunting, although she wasn’t staying with us. And there were a few occurrences that made things feel as happy as weekends used to feel, before the days of long workouts that leave no time for regular life.
My sense of time is all screwed up. I know we only have a few weeks left until the Ironman, but it still feels a long way away. I guess we do have to get there, after all. At any rate, all of this is a round-about way of saying that I have a ton of impressions that are weighing with various pressures on my mind. In order of “weight,” then:
First, the wedding: My first-ever New York roommate got married. She also graduated as a Doctor of Osteopathy. Very, very cool. It was really nice to see her and participate in the wedding. (She had me do a reading. Yes, I got all weepy.)
p6130090
Second, the awesome guys at Braithwaite Wallets donated a fairly large amount of money to ShelterBox by way of supporting me, one of their first clients, and my Ironman effort. I’d say something about how great their wallets are, and, in particular, how the one I bought from them has made my life easier, but all of that pales next to the the donation they made, and the level of gratitude I feel at their generosity.
Third, an old friend from junior high school has found an apartment in Brooklyn and will be moving here mid-summer. It will be nice to have her in the same state–we haven’t lived in the same state since college, really, and we weren’t really in touch then–and interesting to discover Brooklyn with someone who’s interested in some of the same things.
Third, I took this picture of Sprocket recently. I think he looks very thoughtful: “What am I going to make for dinner tonight?”
p6090072
Fourth: I had a workdate yesterday with a new friend. I don’t think it was as successful for him as it was for me, but I’m grateful that he let me hang out with him. It’s always nice to get out of the house.
Fifth: I went to my friend John’s cafe to meet Tim for lunch. It was a really nice experience. Zanny’s Cafe is the result of a lot of hard work and I’m really proud of John for making it happen. I think it’s so awesome to have tangible proof of something you built and worked on.
Sixth: We saw another old friend on our way up to the wedding. Matt and Karla and their little boy Korbin are fascinating people. I love seeing them and I’m happy we’re on the same coast again, even if we’re not likely to see them more than a couple of times a year. The northeast is so much smaller than the midwest, and there is such a concentration of reasonably large cities (New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, for instance), that the act of going to visit a friend in another state does not immediately pack an entire weekend. I mean, obviously, it’s nicer if one can spend an entire weekend with friends, but it’s not as prohibitive as, say, driving to Indianapolis was. Here are Matt, Karla, and Korbin in front of their awesome little condo. p6130082
And here is the awesome radiator re-seller that we saw on the way to Matt and Karla’s (we passed it twice, looping around and around the Somerville streets). p6130078
What else? Oh, yes. We had a massive surf-and-turf dinner at Sarah’s wedding. She is not one to skimp on food, and she is also one to ensure that her guests are very, very happy. This combination leads to fat, happy guests. p6130087
Okay, fine, one more. Here is Sprocket’s poor hedgehog toy. I stitched up one of his eyes after Sprocket ripped it out, but I think it is finally beyond repair. Sigh. p6090075

It’s no good, Capt’n, she’s fogged in!

The Daily Life Text

Today is one of those brilliant writing days. It’s raining like gangbusters, and I can hear the sound of the traffic on 287 because of the shusshing of the tires on the tarmac. When I finally took the time to look up from my work this morning I was shocked to see how foggy it was out, and how little I could see of the opposing hillside. I immediately opened my balcony door too see if it was just the rain on the window hindering my eyesight, and the briskness of the air outside had me pulling on a pair of fuzzy slippers right away. Fuzzy slippers! In summer!
It was not the rain on the window; I really was socked in all around.
As I type, a big boom of thunder has rattled my windows, and I’m happy I’m inside, pecking away on my computer. I’m also happy about the fact that I’ve decided to shelve my swim for today and double up on workouts tomorrow. It’s far too good of a writing day to waste on getting to the pool and back by bus and over an hour on swim.
What I’m not happy about, however, is the lack of overhead lighting in our little apartment. The grey day outside has made it obvious that I won’t be able to put off my big lighting purchase until after July, as I had planned.
I am in the market for an Arco lamp by Castiglioni. I have the name of a fairly reliable reproducer in Brooklyn, so I believe I will make that purchase sooner rather than later. I have wanted one of these lamps forever, so I think I will take advantage of the fact that we are going to be in Brooklyn this week, and pick it up. Boy, oh boy. Lighting.
arcomoma
Anyhow. It’s already 9:25. On to breakfast with the newspaper and then forward to more writing and reading. Forthcoming: a review of Elijah of Buxton, and some reading of the first book in the Faeries of Dreamdark series. And, of course, pecking pecking at the keyboard, trying to make my most recent story arc work.